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O-Zone: Time for football

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Joe from Jacksonville:
Where is my crack? No football makes me crazy!!! I just played a game in Madden and Bortles got injured on his first play. O, does this mean what I think it means? Oh, I was one of the fans present after the greatest upset in playoff history. Does this make me a Day Oner or something?
John: Joe, Joe! … JOE!!!! Relax, my friend. Relax … that's it. Better? Good. There's nothing wrong. You're just in the final days and hours of the dead zone. It's a tough feeling for many fans every year because it feels like a long time waiting for the football season – and even training camp – to begin. It's a different feeling this year for Jaguars followers – and probably a little better feeling, I imagine. That's because the antsy pre-football feeling is accompanied by a real excitement to see what this season will bring. But fear not. You're not going crazy and this feeling shall pass soon because quarterbacks, rookies and first-year players report to EverBank Field Monday. Practice begins Thursday. There is a scrimmage in 11 days and a preseason game in 17 days. The time is at hand – and yeah, sure, you're a Day Oner or something. Now, get some sleep.
Fred from Naples, FL:
One of the great things about the Jags' website is the radio-feature link whereby those of us that live out of town can "catch up" on the local Jag news in a radio replay. As a former Jacksonville resident, listening to Mike Dempsey and Fat Tony always gets me through a workout. This past week they had a guest on named Barry Milligan, who I used to listen to non-stop with David Lamm on the old Lamm at Large show … aw, the memories of those early years came back to me in a big way. Barry is always a class act and he and Lamm played off of each other and it was quite entertaining. How about one fer Barry Milligan? ....and Lamm!!
John: One fer both of them. No doubt.
Brian from Duval:
Sorry if I appear insensitive at the Greg Hardy situation, but I just have the opinion that I honestly believe Hardy (also Ray Rice, for the matter) has learned from his actions. I would never hit a woman, nor would I ever condone it. But Hardy has served his due time for league suspension, plus missing the 2015 regular season. I'm not sold on his character being a "great locker-room guy," but I highly doubt he would cause any chaos or disruption
John: I have no idea if or how much Hardy (or Rice, for that matter) has learned from his actions. I know that Hardy indeed has served his league suspension and that he therefore has every right to play in the NFL. That means it's now up to individual teams to determine if they want to take that step – and if they want to bear the accompanying negative reaction to such a move. I also have no idea what kind of locker-room guy Hardy truly is. I do know that the public fallout and reaction from signing Hardy would be intense and that careful consideration would have had to have been done before such a move was made. Nothing appears imminent on this front. We'll see.
Jonny from Falkirk, Scotland:
Telvin Smith had a great year last year and looks to be a big part of the team over the next few years. What does he need to add to his game to be a Pro Bowl contender? Or does he just need to do what he's doing consistently?
John: Smith had a very good season last season in terms of creating big, high-impact plays. He needs to be more consistent and decrease mistakes. That's an important issue for him this season – and it's a key for him to continue developing as a core player for this defense.
Jim from Middleburg, FL:
Sir, this team has the quality players and depth to win IF it plays as a team. There is not a lot of time to do this before the season starts. This team may start slow but get better quickly. Too bad the bandwagon press is pumping too much sunshine. Team Jaguars til we die. # TJTWD. The fans are faithful. This could be good.
John: This indeed could be a good season. At the very least it appears likely to be an intriguing one. You mentioned the quality and depth – and that appears to be true. If all of the players the Jaguars acquired in the offseason make expected contributions the Jaguars could look like a different team in a hurry. The obvious 'X' factors in all of this are inexperience playing together and youth. We are projecting and predicting a lot of things that we haven't yet seen on the field. That doesn't mean those things won't happen. It does mean the things haven't happened yet and it means seeing those things develop – and seeing how quickly and fully they develop – will be fascinating.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
People always say Week 17 games don't really matter when you're team is out of the playoffs, but I bet Luke Joeckel doesn't think so anymore. Do you think if that game didn't happen he would be facing such competition for the LT spot this training camp?
John: Yes, because the idea of signing Kelvin Beachum was to improve the entire left side of the offensive line. By bringing him in as an unrestricted free agent, you created the scenario of solidifying both the tackle and guard positions on that side. That would have been a priority however Joeckel played in Week 17.
Gerry from Neptune Beach, FL:
Hey John, first time question but an avid reader of the zone. With all this talk about being a fan I thought my story is worth submission. I was unemployed when Jacksonville was awarded a team but bought tickets anyway. Four of the cheapest tickets available. My wife thought I was crazy. She's gone, but I still have the tickets and I am 100 percent sure the tickets were a better investment.
John: Well done.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
Another Day One story for you. Growing up in Alaska, many people ask me how in the world I became a Jaguars fan. Well, I was winter-coat shopping with my mom and brothers in a JCPenny's in Fairbanks, Alaska, when I was 7 years old. Each of my brothers picked out a different NFL coat: Steelers, Eagles,and Vikings. My parents weren't football fans so they didn't really care what we got. I saw a Panthers coat and a Jaguars coat. I went to checkout with the Panthers coat but at the last minute I had a change of heart and sprinted back across the store to grab the Jags one instead. I later found out that they were a brand new team and began watching them religiously. I was even more excited when I saw them make the '96 AFC Championship run. Oddly enough, my brothers and I are still diehard fans of the teams we picked coats for when we were little kids. I grew up as far away from Jacksonville as an American can but still consider myself Day One.
John: As well you should.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, what's your response to the notion that working Greg Hardy out shows that Jags have serious concerns about their pass rush? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: I suppose it depends on your definition of "serious." The Jaguars feel good about the potential of Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue and feel like they can be effective. At the same time, they're rookies and there's little proven depth at the Leo spot. That was a reason for signing Bjoern Werner late in the offseason and I imagine it's a reason for taking a look at Hardy. As for the seriousness of the concern at pass rusher, I suppose if the concerns were dire the Jaguars might have signed Hardy. They didn't.
John from Saint Johns, FL:
Over the years when all of Jacksonville's efforts to get a team failed my heart, hurt because I wanted a NFL team so bad. When the franchise was awarded I was at work at Barksdale AFB and could not stand to watch as all the experts said it was a lock for St Louis. I just could not stand the hurt again. When the announcement was made all the troops watching came running into my office saying, "Chief you got it … Jacksonville got the franchise." I was shocked, yet so very happy – not just for me but Jacksonville. Upon retirement and coming back home I have been a season ticket holder every since.
John: I don't know that there's a better way to end the dead zone than this email. Quarterbacks, rookies and first-year players report Monday. It's time for football.

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